When I was getting ready to go to college, the one thing I was not all excited about was “the dorm” and “I can’t wait to meet my roommate!” I had no idea that I was an introvert, but I knew I needed my alone time, and I especially knew that there are some people I can only take so much of. What if the luck of the draw assigned me to live with such a person?! Yet I knew something “must be wrong with me,” because I really wanted no part of anything I was hearing about “dorm life” or “You’ll miss all the fun!” In fact, I know a few introverts and parents of introverts now – both my own age and young ones – who firmly believe that the way to “snap out of” introversion is to move into dorms and learn to swim in the social sea.
When the time came for me to go to university, I was very fortunate; I lived about 30 miles from the large city where I would go to school, so I decided to just carpool into town with my dad each day. I did miss out on a lot of things, but I liked getting into college life gradually. I went to class, and a lot of people befriended me. A lot of very nice people. And I’d enjoy talking to them and maybe studying with them a bit, then when my dad would arrive after his work day, I’d go home. It took about a year before I began to yearn to stay there on campus all the time. I was meeting enough people one-on-one and hearing about things that were going on at night, and I confess, I also got a major crush on a guy who was a year ahead of me, that I really wanted to live on campus. So after my second year of college, I applied for housing and got it.
At the beginning of my junior year, I moved in, and fortunately since I really felt at home at my large, comfortably anonymous yet familiar university, I did not feel dread. Now instead I had a new feeling – I wanted to keep my roommate at arms’ length. After all, if you start out too friendly, inviting her to go everywhere with you, how are you ever going to withdraw from that if you decide she is just too much? So I tiptoed into the edge of having a roommate, always pleasant but never overly friendly, and after about two months I felt comfortable enough with her to invite her along with a couple of guys and me to a concert, and to later share with her my excitement because my crush had finally asked me out. She was not annoying or pushy at all. But I’ve seen plenty of people who are, and I don’t know how I would have tolerated it if I’d allowed one of them into my inner circle. 🙂
Nowadays, I think universities have detailed questionnaires for housing applicants so that they can try to place them with someone compatible. I don’t know how often they actually bother to match properly – do engineering students still end up having to put up with party animals? But if you are a young introvert, feel free to go as slowly as you like when it comes to campus life. Don’t isolate yourself, of course, but don’t push yourself into things you know you will hate. Relax and find things you genuinely enjoy doing. Look around for people who are like you – I found plenty of people who were fun yet not annoying, and quietly friendly, just like I like. I had a wonderful time at college, but it wasn’t because I forced myself into a mold that wasn’t right for me. I’m an introvert, and I need my space.
Photo credit: No Pants Day